Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association Blog

Legislator briefings with Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Rep. Jeffrey Roy

21 July 2021

NEHPBA leadership had productive meetings on June 17, 2021 with Massachusetts Rep. Carolyn C. Dykema (D-Holliston) and Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin). 

Rep. Dykema is chairperson of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and Rep. Roy chairs the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

Both committees and both legislators are central to and influential in ongoing energy-policy discussions on Beacon Hill and the creation of any related legislative proposals. We have been particularly encouraged by their informed and reasonable stance on matters relative to the ongoing availability of safe, clean natural gas to Massachusetts homeowners and businesses. 

Both legislators were welcoming and gracious – as well as eager to learn more about the hearth industry and the importance of NEHPBA members’ service and product expertise to millions of households in New England. And both expressed strong support for small businesses like the majority of NEHPBA members and recognition of their critical role in the economy. It’s important for NEHPBA and its members to be stakeholders at the table on important policy matters impacting our industry. We are confident Rep. Dykema and Rep. Roy value the input of NEHPBA in that role. 

We look forward to continued dialogue with both of these legislators, as well as other key state government leaders with the potential to impact our industry. And we have scheduled legislative meetings with House and Senate representatives in other states in the region throughout August.

NEHPBA is YOUR industry’s voice on Beacon Hill and at state houses in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and New York.

NEHPBA Sends Letter to Gov Baker Offering to Be a Resource in Implementing Next Generation Roadmap for MA Climate Policy

28 June 2021

On Friday, June 25th, the day that the Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy went into effect, Northeast HPBA sent a letter to Governor Baker's office offering to be a resource in implementing the plan. Below is a copy of the letter.

Massachusetts New Climate Law Takes Effect Today

25 June 2021

State’s energy policies must now weigh equity, climate concerns and community safety alongside cost and energy needs

Massachusetts' breakthrough climate law takes legal effect today, 90 days after it was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker. Most notably, effective today, the scope and mission of one state agency, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), has changed dramatically. The DPU can no longer make decisions strictly based on the criteria of system reliability and affordability, instead it must factor in the effects of our energy system on residents health and safety and the climate, as well as cumulative impacts for environmental justice communities.

The bill rode a rollercoaster on the way to passage in late 2020 and early 2021. Governor Charlie Baker vetoed a version of the legislation that came to his desk days before the end of the 2019-2020 legislative session. When it reached his desk again in January, Governor Baker sent watered down amendments back to the legislature. House and Senate leaders responded to pressure from their constituents and overwhelmingly rejected efforts to weaken key parts of the legislation. The Governor finally capitulated and signed the bill into law in March 2021.

The Department of Public Utilities must align its policymaking with an ambitious new mission. Under the Next Generation Roadmap*, the DPU must give equal weight to six factors as it decides electric power and natural gas rates, reviews contracts with electric and gas companies, and makes policy. System reliability and affordability, the DPU's two long standing priorities, will remain crucial, but starting today the DPU must also consider four new criteria -- safety, system security (from both cyberattacks and physical sabotage), equity, and reductions in climate pollution (GHG).

“This bill takes an important step by putting equity and climate explicitly in the mission of our utility oversight. It's been long overdue.” said Lee Matsueda of Community Labor United, “Now our energy policy will have more clear guidance to better serve Environmental Justice communities, and confront disproportionate impact and unequal treatment.”

Also starting today is the requirement that all parties - the state agencies, the utilities, the program administrators - involved in running Mass Save must factor the “social value of greenhouse gas emission reductions” into the design, evaluation, and approval of program service. Essentially, until now, the benefits of not burning dirty fuel for health and climate justice have been missing from the cost-benefit analysis. “With the social value and benefits of equitable energy efficiency being finally added to the equation, we will see deeper investments in these critical programs.” said Andrea Nyamekye of Neighbor to Neighbor, “Cleaner air, lower heating and cooling bills, and lower asthma rates in historically impacted communities.”

This new requirement begins little more than a month after the Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee shared a Draft 2022-2024 Energy Efficiency Plan. During the last public comment session, advocates highlighted another new statutory requirement, effective today, to align the plan’s goals and benchmarks with the new emissions targets that will be established on July 15 by the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The Green Justice Coalition has worked for years to increase access to energy efficiency programs in language isolated and low-income communities. “Residents in our state are struggling with high utility bills and economic hardship after COVID-19; with the rising temperatures every year, we cannot let our communities suffer any longer. We call on the Baker Administration to address the barriers that are preventing participation by members of EJ communities and reject any 3-year plan that doesn’t center the needs of these communities.” said Paulina Casasola, Climate Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action.

“Governor Baker had succumbed to the interests of real estate lobby groups and attempted to water down key provisions in the bill, targeting the net zero stretch provisions,” Sarah Dooling of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network said. “But advocates got this bill over the finish line by demanding buildings be part of the climate solution, and legislators listened. Building code is now valued as a core part of the climate movement. The bill also adds three new seats to the Board of Building Regulations and Standards -- with expertise in commercial and residential building energy efficiency, and advanced building technology. The BBRS is now in a position to work effectively with the Department of Energy Resources on developing a true net zero stretch code guided by community input.”

*NEHPBA has been invited to part of this DPU stakeholder process. We are part of the conversation!

Source: State House News

Brookline MA Once Again Trying to Ban Fossil Fuels, This Time it Could Work

9 June 2021



From a previous action:

The Town of Brookline released the Warrant Articles this afternoon for the May 19th Annual Town Meeting. Included in this Town Meeting will be the modified Warrant Article 21, which as you remember was the proposed general by-law to prohibit fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction and significant renovation. Below is a brief summary of warrant article 26. The full the full article can be found on pages 28-34 of the Brookline Annual Town Meeting Warrant.

The amended article aims to limit the installation of new fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction and significant renovations through the Towns existing special permitting process. Essentially Under this Article, a special permit for a project that includes new construction or significant renovations may be issued only if the proposal does not include new fossil fuel infrastructure or if the permit is made subject to conditions that will ensure the property will be converted to electric infrastructure in the future. These conditions may include expiration of the permit in 2030 or after five years—whichever comes later—or alternatively upon transfer of the property outside the family. Upon the expiration of such a permit, the owner would be required to bring the property into zoning compliance by removing and replacing the fossil fuel infrastructure or the construction or use that triggered the special permit condition in the first place. This Article requires that property owners subject to an expiring special permit receive notice from the Town well in advance of the expiration date.

How it works:

Special permits are used to seek zoning relief. Those who seek special permits for major construction projects (new construction and gut renovation) will have two options: 1. To choose a regular special permit and to build Fossil Fuel Free) FFF (defined here as it was in WA21, with essentially the same exemptions and waivers) 2. To choose an expiring special permit and to build non-FFF (defined here as it was in WA21, with essentially the same exemptions and waivers)

Photo By RICK SOBEY Boston Herald PUBLISHED: November 21, 2019

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New Hampshire CALL-TO-ACTION: Freedom of Energy Choice Legislation

6 May 2021

Protect your business! We've made the CALL-TO-ACTION easy!

The public hearing on HPBA Bill SB 86 to protect propane from state bans is coming up on May 10! Use this link to email the municipal committee and ask them to vote YES on SB 86. https://oneclickpolitics.global.ssl.fastly.net/messages/edit?promo_id=12892

The New Hampshire House Municipal and County Committee is considering Part III of SB 86, a bill that will ensure that all citizens have the right to choose their own energy source. Please protect consumers' right to choose propane and ask them to vote YES on Part III of SB 86.

Part III of SB 86 is an omnibus legislative proposal that deals with consumer choice as it pertains to deciding how to heat your home and business. Please participate! Send this email. We need as many emails as possible for the committee hearing BEFORE Monday, May 10th!

Please insert your company information in the first line. Feel free to forward to your employees, reps, dealers, and managers and share on your social media pages!

Thank you for your industry support.

NEHPBA Calls for Greater Focus on Renewable Natural Gas (RNG)

29 April 2021


NEHPBA Calls for Greater Focus on Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) 

Alternative fuel source is plentiful in decomposing food and animal waste More investment needed in RNG technology and research  

Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) today urged its industry members and their customers to join a call for more investment in Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) technology and focus on more research into RNG’s value as a renewable power source with multiple applications. 

Renewable Natural Gas is a carbon-free fuel alternative derived by extracting methane from decomposing food scraps and animal manure. Waste material are processed through systems called anaerobic digesters that sustainably repurpose the waste into a renewable power source. RNG is also transported and distributed through existing infrastructure, so there is no need to build new pipelines. 

“Massachusetts is a national leader in addressing food waste, and maintains strict guidelines on the management and disposal of commercial food waste in particular,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA. “This has created natural incentives for high-waste producing organizations to participate in waste-to-energy partnerships.” 

Reducing food waste in landfills while increasing the supply of clean energy and reducing greenhouse gasses represents an important opportunity for Massachusetts and other Northeast states. But the issue needs a stronger emphasis and priority placed on new technology, research and investment. NEHPBA represents more than 250 member retailers, service providers and other businesses in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and New York in addition to Massachusetts. 

Several recent Massachusetts policy developments may help encourage The Commonwealth to investigate supply and obstacles to RNG. They include:

  1. The recently enacted Massachusetts Climate Legislation 
  2. The Clean Energy Climate Plan 
  3. The Mass. Department of Public Utilities report into the future of natural gas

Of the approximately 200 anaerobic digestion systems across the United States, 13 have been established and installed in Massachusetts. Each digester can produce roughly enough biogas to fuel about 2,000 homes.  

“Massachusetts represents about two percent of the total U.S. population, and the state has about 6.5 percent of the nation’s processing infrastructure for waste-to-energy conversion,” said NEHPBA Executive Director Karen Arpino. “The Commonwealth is already out front as a leader in supporting this important method for creating more renewable fuel alternatives. It’s important to build on that by advocating for more widespread use and adoption of RNG.” 

In New Hampshire, as a new waste-to-energy facility is underway in Bethlehem, the state projects RNG will represent about 8 percent of its energy mix until 2025.  Three New York dairy farms have partnered with an energy provider on a new facility under development in Western New York and the Finger Lakes region. And one of Maine’s major natural gas concerns – Summit Utilities – is also developing a an RNG production facility in partnership with several local farms. 

Data and projections show that sufficient RNG production could recycle enough organic waste to supply all current commercial gas demand nationwide. Alternatively, 75 percent of current residential demand or 45 percent of industrial demand could be met.  

NEHPBA and the entire industry are working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure that a range of energy choices continue to be available in the Northeast – that includes natural gas, propane and oil heat systems as well as wood-burning appliances.

About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002. 

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NEHPBA Urges Gov. Charlie Baker to Fix Deeply Flawed Climate Change Legislation

5 February 2021

February 5, 2021


NEHPBA Urges Gov. Charlie Baker to Fix Deeply Flawed Climate Change Legislation

The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association backs Gov. Baker’s position that S. 9 is based on ‘flawed analysis’ and creates prohibitive costs for energy users

Sudbury, MAThe Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) today urged Gov. Charlie Baker’s to fix a deeply ‘flawed’ climate change bill that would raise costs prohibitively for energy users and eliminate the use of natural gas and home heating oil.

The trade association represents more than 300 retailers and service providers that specialize in wood-burning home heating systems, chimneys and hearths and also service natural gas systems and equipment. NEHPBA – on behalf of its members and millions of consumers - is urging Baker to make significant amendments to the bill, now numbered S. 9.

“In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we have over 60 member-companies supporting 350 families: the vast majority of them are independent “mom and pop” small businesses who are significant community contributors in the markets they serve across the Commonwealth,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies out of Brockton, MA. “The elimination of gas in new construction will immediately put our member retailers and the associate businesses related to them (chimney sweeps and installers) out of business.”

NEHPBA recognizes the changing landscape of the energy and fossil fuel industry. Its members and leadership are committed to working with government officials and regulators at all levels to increase access to more sustainable and climate-centric fuel sources throughout our homes and businesses. However, moving immediately to a Net Zero model could result in skyrocketing electric rates and potentially inhibit access to more affordable sources of fuel and power—negatively affecting the most vulnerable among us.

“We strongly agree with the observations made in both the Governor’s original veto language to S. 9. as well as comments made by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Theoharides, citing both the prohibitive costs and flawed analysis in the climate legislation approved by the General Court,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “In particular, we agree with the Administration’s assessment that the elimination of home heating oil would be particularly burdensome and expensive to taxpayers. Governor Baker rightly vetoed the original version of this deeply flawed legislation in January. Now he has the opportunity to insist on critical changes that will protect small businesses, consumers and households across the Commonwealth.”

Among the problems NEHPBA has identified with S. 9:

  • NEHPBA opposes the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to have consultative powers on the building code. By allowing the DOER to consult on building code, Massachusetts would essentially be allowing the building code to become an energy code. 
  • NEHPBA opposes the mandated replacement of systems that use fossil fuels. Already this season we have had two power outages that have had homeowners relying on gas and wood heat. Additionally, the elimination of fossil fuels would eliminate the last of the mom and pop, family owned small business in this state. The new jobs created are not transferrable and would not be available to these business owners who rely on the sales and installation of gas and wood fueled heating and decorative appliances.
  • NEHPBA is concerned on multiple levels about the hyper-focus on electric heat through heat pumps. Currently, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 50.6 percent of homes (1.3 million individual households) heat with natural gas; and 27 percent (700,000+ households) heat with oil. Allowing homeowners energy choice and energy diversity is important in the northeast where power outages as a result of winter weather are very common. Heat pumps lose efficiency once temperatures dip below 40 degrees and are no longer the most efficient heating option once temperatures fall to 25 to 30 degrees. 

NEHPBA and the entire industry are working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure that a range of energy choices continue to be available in the Northeast – that includes natural gas, propane and oil heat systems as well as wood-burning appliances.

About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.

Media contacts:

Karen L. Luther - NEHPBA



Cosmo Macero Jr. - Seven Letter



Outreach to Our Local, Newly-Elected Officials

25 January 2021

Northeast HPBA made the decision to email all of the newly-elected house and senate representatives in each state in our region to congratulate them on their victory, to introduce them to the NEHPBA members in their district, and to introduce them to NEHPBA and what we do. We've been getting so many wonderful responses. See an example of one of the letters we sent and some of the many responses below:

Dear Representative Kushmerek:

Congratulations on being elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. 

The Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) is a trade association representing more than 300 individual member retail and related companies throughout the Northeast. These are our region’s chimney sweeps, installers, hearth retailers, maintenance companies, and any other entity having a commercial interest in the hearth, patio and/or barbecue industry, including—but not limited to—gas utilities, publications, testing laboratories, insurance agencies, financial institutions, business systems providers, advertising agencies, public relations firms, and so much more. Specifically, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we have over 60 member companies—all of whom are independent “mom and pop” small businesses.

Feens Country Living, owned by Wendy Feen in Fitchburg, is a local, family owned and operated business that has been servicing the area for over 45 years. Feens is an NEHPBA member that installs gas, wood and pellet fireplaces. They are well known in your community and we look forward to introducing you further to our member businesses.

Our member businesses are community contributors. They sponsor local little leagues; they are members of school boards and PTAs; they provide a sense of vibrancy to Main Street, they know the towns and cities they represent because they live there; and the local impact they are making in the economy is needed, now more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, where so many of our small businesses are already being pushed to the limit—from North Adams to Natick and Springfield to Salisbury. 

NEHPBA and our members remain committed to working with government officials and regulators at all levels to increase access to more sustainable and climate centric fuel sources throughout our homes and businesses. I look forward to getting to know you and introducing you to our members. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (978) 443-0344 or via email at Karen@NEHPBA.org with any questions.


Karen L. Luther

Executive Director

Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Some of the responses from the letter above: 

  • "Thank you so much for reaching out.  Please stay in touch with legislative issues that are of a concern for your group.  I’ll be putting together a small business advisory board and would like to invite you to it once it’s established." - Tammy Nuccio, State Representative 
  • I hope this email finds you well! Thank you for the nice note to Rep. DiGiovancarlo. He would love to connect with you to learn more about NEHPBA. Are you available Tuesday, 2/23 at 4pm by chance? - Brittany Kane, MSW, Legislative Aide & Constituent Engagement Coordinator for Rep. DiGiovancarlo
  • "Thank you so much for reaching out. I’m grateful for every opportunity to meet job creators in our community.  Pls don’t hesitate to call me.  I wonder if you’ve had a chance to review some of the tax bills before the GA.  Would love to connect." - Kimberly Fiorello, General Assembly
  • "Thanks for the note Karen.  I appreciate you reaching out.  Many people in my district rely on this type of energy to heat their homes." - Rep. Callahan, General Assembly
  • “Thanks so much for your note. Your trade organization is not one that I was familiar with, but I can imagine that with the COVID-19 pandemic and folks wanting to spend more time in comfortable outdoor settings you have been more in the spotlight. I've cc'ed my aide Emerson Gagnon.  Feel free to reach out to him if you have particular issues that you think need my office's attention.  I'm also happy to meet with any of your members who live in or have businesses based in my district so I can better understand their concerns.” - Steve Owens - State Representative
  • “Thank you, Karen. I look forward to working with you, as well.” - Steven G. Xiarhos, State Representative
  • “Thank you for your email and for reaching out. I certainly appreciate the introduction and look forward to working with you and your district members. Wendy - If my office or I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out. Additionally, I’ve cc’ed my legislative aide, Brandon Robbins on this email.” - Michael P. Kushmerek, State Representative
  • “Thank you for reaching out to our office, Karen. I look forward to working with your organization.” - John Cronin, Senator
  • “Thank you, Karen!  I have cc'd my aid as well in case you need anything at all.”  - Jake Oliveira, State Representative
  • “Thank you for reaching out!  If you need to contact the Senator, please feel free to do so through myself especially for future urgent matters. Looking forward to working with you and your organization.  Thank you!”  - Danielle Allard, Chief of Staff/General Counsel, Office of Senator
  • “Thank you for this communication. I’m cc’ing my Legislative Counsel, Chris Westfall, so you have his contact information as well.” - Fluker Oakley, State Representative

Hearth, Patio & BBQ Professionals Deserve a Seat at the Table When Discussing Climate Change

6 January 2021

The past year delivered unprecedented challenges for the American economy and our industry as we coped with the impact and disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on a consistent basis the biggest challenge to the hearth industry continues to be government regulations which impact our livelihood, create new hurdles to doing business and alter our ability to effectively serve customers.

At the core we are actually a building materials industry. But because we exist at the crossroads of both energy and environmental policy, we face more government regulation than any other segment of the building materials sector. When you integrate our critical role in servicing a range of heating equipment that uses a variety of fuels, almost every business function represented by the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) is subject to intense regulation and government oversight.

We deserve a seat at the table and a voice in the process for all policy making that impacts our members. And in 2021, one of NEHPBA’s top priorities will be making sure we are at that table and that the industry’s voice – YOUR voice – is heard. You are more than 300 individual retail, service and related companies across the Northeast: chimney sweeps, installers, maintenance providers, retail showrooms and other entities. And you are part of a much broader industry nationwide represented in Washington by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA).

In the Northeast region – the six New England states and New York - we are fighting for your interests and your livelihood. In Maine and Vermont we continue to advocate strongly on our members’ behalf against some of those states’ most aggressive and damaging initiatives that impact this industry. And most recently, were heavily engaged in bringing our industry’s message to lawmakers in Massachusetts as they finalized a comprehensive piece of climate legislation at the end of 2020 and into the early days of this year. Preserving energy choice is critical in the Northeast for the good of consumers and members of (NEHPBA). In Massachusetts alone we have over 60 member companies - the vast majority of them independent “mom and pop” small businesses. 

These NEHPBA members, as is the case throughout the Northeast, are good civic and community partners. All of our members are. You sponsor local little leagues; you serve on school boards and PTAs; you provide a sense of vibrancy to Main Street, not Wall Street; and you know the towns and cities you serve because you live there. The local impact you have on the economy is desperately needed - now more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many of our small businesses are already being pushed to the limit.

NEHPBA recognizes the changing landscape of the energy and fossil fuel industry. We are committed to working with government officials and regulators at all levels to increase access to more sustainable and climate-centric fuel sources throughout our homes and businesses. But we must make our voice heard clearly as more states advance toward “Net Zero” emissions goals – as Massachusetts has done with its newest climate bill. With every major weather event the Northeast experiences – particularly in the winter – the potential peril of neglecting energy diversity as governments march toward lower emissions is evident. 

Our nation’s electric grid relies on natural gas for approximately 40 percent of U.S. power generation. That means the very sources of renewable energy that policymakers favor – electric heat, wind energy and other “non-burning” systems – are still largely dependent on natural gas for the creation of that energy supply. Put simply: U.S. natural gas demand is likely to skyrocket – as much as 65 percent by 2050 – over the same time period during which policymakers are planning dramatic reductions in natural gas usage. Additionally, the long-term measures required to fully repair the U.S. economy from 2020’s pandemic-inflicted damage almost certainly means massive new programs to invest in infrastructure and manufacturing will be on the table. Such initiatives will require tremendous amounts of energy that cannot be fulfilled without sustaining and even expanding gas-fired energy generation.

But do these macro issues really have a direct impact on YOU – the small business owner serving customers and households in your own community?


Energy and environmental policy may be created at the federal and state level – but it is almost always implemented in some way at the local level, with visible impact on communities and the businesses that serve them.

You deserve a voice in these debates. You need a seat at the table. We are committed to providing both for all our members in 2021 and beyond.

Chelmsford, Westford Debut Municipal Clean Energy Programs - MA

29 December 2020

LOWELL — Thanks to organizing from local grassroots organizations, both Chelmsford and Westford are in the process of rolling out more climate-friendly municipal energy programs. Westford’s new plan will take effect in January 2021, while Chelmsford’s plan has been in effect since November.

“The most powerful thing that you can do as an all-grassroots organization in your town is to look at your aggregation contract and increase the renewables,” said Beth Perkins, co-chair of Westford Climate Action, the newly formed grassroots organization that was instrumental to Westford’s new aggregation contract.

Municipal energy aggregation programs, in which cities and towns bulk purchase electricity plans for their residents, have gained popularity across Massachusetts in recent years because they offer residents a cheaper, more consistent energy bill. Westford, which began its aggregation program in 2016, currently offers only one municipal energy option with 16% renewable energy. This is the minimum percentage of renewable energy mandated by the state.

After Westford Climate Action successfully lobbied the Select Board to diversify its clean energy options ahead of its 2021 contract renewal, the Board agreed to add three new options in addition to the state-mandated minimum plan, at 10.47¢/KWh (cent per kilowatt hour): the “Green” default plan, at 10% more than the state minimum, costs 10.79¢/KWh; the “Silver” plan, at 50% more than the minimum, costs 12.08¢/KWh; and the “Gold” plan, at 100% more than the minimum, costs 13.66¢/KWh. This contract will remain in effect until December 2023.

“A number of towns have gone for like 5% additional renewable energy, so I do think it’s significant that we went up to 10% additional renewable energy for our default,” said chair of the Westford Energy Committee Mike Berlinski.

Although 10% above the state-mandated minimum amount of renewable energy is significant for a default plan, Westford Climate Action members hope to increase the default amount in future contracts.

The group mobilized to bring a resolution to the Select Board in October that set a goal in the town of net zero carbon emissions in 2050, in line with those set by the state and the Paris Agreement.

“We collected over 200 signatures during COVID, which was a bit of a feat,” said Carol Morse, co-chair of Westford Climate Action. “We passed our resolution almost unanimously.”

Opting up to the 50% plan would cost the typical Westford resident an average of $12 extra per month from the baseline plan, according to Berlinski. And if everyone in town were to opt for the 50% plan, the impact would be equivalent to taking over 1,800 cars off the road, a figure that he presented to the Select Board earlier this year to persuade them to change the contract. “That’s pretty significant,” he said.

Perkins called opting up “a no-brainer” because renewable energy has become so affordable in recent years. National Grid’s residential energy plan costs 12.38¢/KWh, which is under a cent less than Westford’s 100% renewable energy plan.

Although Chelmsford’s previous aggregation contract included a 100% renewable energy option, this option was not well-publicized, and the aggregation program was primarily a cost-savings measure more than a green one. Tom Amiro, a member of Chelmsford Climate Action, said that only about 50 households opted for that option.

The new plan, which took effect in November, includes a middle option, 56% renewable energy at 11.48¢/KWh, in addition to the state minimum of 16% renewable energy at 10.04¢/KWh and the 100% renewable energy option at 13.02¢/KWh. This change is largely due to efforts by Chelmsford Climate Action and other citizen grassroots organizations.

Amiro hopes this middle option, along with a public awareness campaign by Chelmsford Climate Action, will encourage residents to opt for a higher percentage of renewable energy.

“For a few pennies, you can do something to slow down climate change and promote local renewable energy jobs, (but residents) have to be willing to put a little skin in the game,” he said.

Because both Chelmsford’s and Westford’s contracts mandate that the renewable energy must come from New England, an increase in these types of contracts statewide will spur job creation in the region, particularly in the renewable energy sector. New England’s clean energy sources primarily include wind and solar energy, but also include landfill gas, low impact hydroelectric power and certain types of biomass.

Municipal aggregation programs have increased in popularity across the state in recent years according to Marlana Patton of Peregrine Group, an energy consulting firm that works with Chelmsford and other cities and towns in Massachusetts.

“It’s been available and possible in the state for many, many years. But in the past five years or so, it’s really exploded,” she said. “We went from having just a very, very small number of communities that have these kinds of programs, (now) it’s got to be nearly half the state at this point. And there are more in the regulatory queue.” Patton works with towns including Lexington, Nantucket, Newton, Cambridge, Acton, Swampscott and Worcester on green energy aggregation programs. Boston, Lowell, Brookline and Arlington also have programs with green options.

“Individuals don’t have to make a big change to their lifestyle, they don’t have to give up their gas-powered cars, they don’t have to cover their whole roofs and land with solar, but they can still reduce their carbon footprint in a less invasive way,” Berlinski said of the benefits of municipal aggregation programs that prioritize renewable energy.

Chelmsford residents can visit chelmsfordchoice.com and Westford residents can visit masscea.com/westford to learn more and change their energy plans.

Source: Lowell Sun

First Winter Weather Blast Threatens Widespread Power Outages as Major Storm Highlights Importance of Energy Diversity

17 December 2020

December 17, 2020


NEHPBA: Preserving access to natural gas and other fuel sources is critical for emergency readiness in major weather events

Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association today urged residents across New England and the Northeast to be safe and prepare for the impact from a major winter storm – with widespread power outages and property damage from falling trees a likelihood in many communities.

The late-year Nor’reaster also highlights the critical nature of energy diversity and the risks of over-dependence on electric power for household and commercial heating.

“A winter storm can knock out sections of the power grid in an instant. And severe cold and winter weather can place people at serious risk almost immediately,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies. “Winter Nor’easters, blizzards and ice storms are something we are all too familiar with in New England. When the grid goes down in those conditions, over-reliance on electric power can be dangerous.”

NEHPBA is part of a cross-section of industry associations and advocates fighting to maintain energy diversity in the marketplace – as special interests support initiatives to ban natural gas, complicate regulations around propane and wood-burning fuel products and limit choices for home-heating systems. The industry is working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure natural gas continues to be available in New England and the Northeast as part of a complete range of energy choices.

Survey data commissioned by the nationwide Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association in November found 65 percent of American voters polled believe it’s either “very important” or “somewhat important” to have multiple fuel choices for home heating. Additionally, 71 percent of voters surveyed said it was either “very important” or “somewhat important” to keep their home heating system without being forced to switch fuel types.

Banning new natural gas connections or curbing existing use dramatically will hurt Americans when costs of living are already high. The over-reliance on electric power for heating and cooking exposes households to higher risks when major weather events knock out the grid.

“New England households need diverse energy choices to maintain financial stability, and to protect families when the region’s electric power infrastructure is placed at risk by events such as a major winter storm,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “It’s not just a matter of preference. It’s a matter of good energy policy and a matter of household safety and preparedness.”

About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.

Benefits of Being a Member of Northeast HPBA

9 December 2020

You heard it here first! HPBA is the top resource for everything hearth and barbecue. By joining NEHPBA and HPBA, you can count on us for education and networking opportunities, business insights, and explore perks on cost savings. Become a part of the family! Renew or Join here.

Vermont "Climate Action Plan" is in the Works, May Ban NG in New Construction

7 December 2020

The 23 member VT Climate Council will hold their second meeting later this month. Created by the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), the Council is required to develop a “Climate Action Plan” by December 2021. Under the GWSA, VT must show a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions over the next four years. If emissions don’t decline by at least 26% by 2025, anyone could sue the state. This emission reduction mandate aligns with a decade old energy policy to virtually eliminate all petroleum in Vermont. It’s possible that the Climate Council will put together a plan to subsidize electric cars and electric heat pumps and ask the legislature to pass a tax on oil and gas to pay for the program. They may also consider banning oil and gas heat in new construction. Go to vermontfuel.com/gwsa for more about the law.

Burlington, VT Bans Outdoor Wood Fires - Again!

21 October 2020

The Burlington, VT City Council has banned backyard wood burning fire pits (again). No more S'mores due to concerns about air pollution. 

Meanwhile, the same city council is expected to impose a carbon tax on new gas furnaces in order to convince more people to hook up to electric heat. 

This is the same electric heat that caused Burlington, VT residents to flee an apartment complex because the temperature inside didn’t get above 45 degrees in December. 

This is also the same electricity that comes from the city-owned utility that is fed by the city-owned wood burning power plant. 

This is the same wood burning power plant that operates at just 24% efficiency and is the largest emitter of CO2 in Vermont.

Governor Baker, New England Governors Call for Modernization of Regional Electricity System

15 October 2020

Five Northeast Governors Seek Reform of Market Design, Transmission Planning, and Governance Needed to Achieve States’ Mandates for Clean, Affordable, and Reliable Power

BOSTON — Recognizing the critical role that New England’s regional wholesale electricity market plays in addressing climate change and cost-effectively reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Governors from four Northeast states today issued a statement calling for reforms needed to achieve their states’ respective goals for clean, affordable, and reliable electricity.   

“To meet to our Administration’s goal of net zero emissions in Massachusetts by 2050, the Commonwealth needs a regional electricity system that can support the delivery of clean, affordable, and reliable energy to residents and businesses,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. “My administration looks forward to working with our partner states, ISO-New England and stakeholders to build a more transparent, modern and cost-effective power system that will allow New England states to meet our ambitious climate change and clean energy goals while creating a better future for our residents.”

The statement, signed by Governor Baker, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Maine Governor Janet Mills, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, and Vermont Governor Phil Scott, calls for reform of the regional electricity market design, transmission planning process, and the governance of the ISO-New England, the independent system operator for the New England power system.  A Vision document outlining specific areas for reform will be released later this week through the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), a non-profit entity that represents the collective perspective of the New England states in regional electricity matters. 

“When Connecticut deregulated our electricity sector, we were promised competition, lower risk for ratepayers, more affordable electricity, and a system that respects and accommodates our clean energy mandates,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. “What we got is a system that has actively hindered our efforts to decarbonize the grid, and imposed burdensome costs on Connecticut ratepayers to fix market design failures. Working together with our neighboring states, I’m committed to achieving a regional electricity grid that provides the affordable, clean, and reliable electricity that Connecticut families and businesses deserve.”

“It is far past time that New England reforms how its electric grid is managed,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills. “The wholesale electricity markets must advance and support clean energy laws and policies, as the states demand decarbonization and markets and consumers support more renewables. ISO-New England must keep pace with state priorities and it must be more transparent and accountable in its decision making, broadening its focus to include consumer and environment concerns as well as reliability and cost.”

“Here in Rhode Island, we're committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonizing our future. I’m proud that we're on track to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2030,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “In order to meet our shared clean energy goals and aggressively combat climate change, it’s clear we need to take a regional approach.”  

“I’ve long said our work to address climate change can and must also work to make energy more affordable for Vermonters, so I’m pleased to be a part of this regional approach to achieving both of these priorities,” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott. “With a strategic, multi-state approach we can have a greater impact on both climate change mitigation and energy affordability.”

 In the coming months, the states will convene open and accessible forums to ensure that all interested stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in further refinement of the principles of the shared Vision.

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